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Incredible Things to Do in the Finger Lakes Region

With 11 lakes encompassing New York State's most enthralling scenery, the Finger Lakes region is a must-see for nature lovers. Regarded for its fine wine, state parks, and charming small towns, the area has a lot to offer beyond its beauty, however. Whether you want to spot scenic waterfalls and gorges or tour some of the country's top breweries, wineries, and attractions, something for everyone awaits in the Finger Lakes. From romantic getaways to family vacations, this underrated area deserves a lot more attention.

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01Seneca Lake

Lake Seneca pier at Watkins Glen,New York State,USA Peter Unger / Getty Images

The largest, deepest (618 ft), and most majestic of the lakes, this is an excellent launching point to start exploring the area. Surrounded by charming small towns, you can find the ideal anchor to call home throughout your vacation. Geneva is a quaint historic community dating back to the 18th century, with picturesque row houses, a resort modeled after an Italian villa, a castle, and of course, first-rate shops and restaurants. Smaller, scenic villages include Hammondsport, Skaneateles, Aurora, and Penn Yan, where you can capture an authentic taste of lakeside living.

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02Belhurst Castle

 Belhurst Castle and Winery in Finger Lakes region, Upstate New York Leonard Zhukovsky / Shutterstock

Discover the beauty and romance of days gone by at this luxurious 19th-century castle. Named one of the world's best wine hotels by Wine Enthusiast, you'll discover upscale accommodations paired with premium spa services, wining, and dining — and you don't have to stay to savor a sip. The on-site tasting room and gift shop feature some of the finest reds and whites in the US, along with craft beer, cider, handmade jewelry, and original artwork. The Isabella Spa-Salon offers a range of invigorating services to soothe the body, mind, and soul, and dining options range from casual pub fare to 5-star favorites.

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03Keuka Wine Trail

With over 100 wineries to choose from, the region is an absolute must-visit for aspiring sommeliers. Wine trails allow you to hit multiple stops in the same day, so you can savor sips and scenery while gaining convenience, and the Keuka Wine Trail is one of the best in the country. At Hunt Country Vineyards, you'll sample palette-pleasing reds and whites with an as-fresh-as-it-gets meal to wash it all down; the vineyard is also a farm focused on sustainable agriculture. At Keuka Spring Vineyards, you'll discover aromas and flavors to delight the senses with lakeside views while you sip. Seven family-owned wineries round out the trail.

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04Finger Lakes Beer Trail

Discover over 85 unique microbreweries, tap houses, and brewpubs on this 210-mile trail encompassing the Finger Lakes region. While it's impossible to visit them all, their proximity makes it simple to check top hotspots off your list. Tastings cost just $3-$5, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. With on-site shops and restaurants, you can take home your favorites or sample pairings with pub-friendly fare. Keuka Brewing Company is a favorite that focuses on innovative styles and flavors, while Steuben Brewing Company features panoramic views of pastoral fields and rolling hills overlooking the lake.

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05Skaneateles

 SKANEATELES, NEW YORK PQK / Shutterstock

This charming village is nestled onto the shores of the clearest water in New York State. Walkable streets mean you can easily spend hours exploring, and the bustling downtown area houses an array of one-of-a-kind boutiques and eateries. Browse aisle after aisle of handmade candles, soaps, gifts, and goodies; find creative clothing, toys, quilts, and so much more. When the hunger sets in, you'll find everything from burgers to seafood, pizza, and patisserie. The lakeside setting means that boat tours and watercraft rentals are available for on-the-water adventures.

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06Watkins Glen State Park

Waterfall and bridge at Watkins Glen State Park, New York Photo by Katkami / Getty Images

A must-see for nature lovers, this 778-acre state park features some of the most enthralling nature in the US. Discover cascading waterfalls, gorges, wildlife, and mile after mile of verdant forest. The most popular destination? Rainbow Falls, a triple-layer waterfall that you can walk right under — a rarity in the region. You'll spot multiple gorges on the aptly-titled Gorge Trail there, including one that plunges 400 feet deep. Right by the falls, you can't miss the 50-foot plunging Cavern Cascade, which flows directly into Glen Creek below. Stay long enough, and you might have time for a dip in the park's Olympic-sized swimming pool.

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07Finger Lakes National Forest

The only national forest in New York State, this striking park features over 15,000 acres of natural beauty. With 30+ miles of trails, you can find the ideal fit for your experience and fitness level, winding around the park as you savor once-in-a-lifetime views of woodlands and wildlife. Keep an eye out; you could spot beavers, bobcats, Eastern wild turkey, red foxes, wood ducks, and white-tailed deer, along with countless species of rare grassland and shrubland birds. Fishing, hunting, camping, cross-country skiing, and snowboarding are all welcome.

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08Ithaca

This lively college town, home to Cornell University, has a lot to offer its visitors. Catch awe-inspiring views of the city's 150+ waterfalls — all within a 10-mile radius — as you wander its winding streets. Ithaca Falls is located directly downtown, making it an easy find for any itinerary.

Art and culture lovers will be impressed by the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, an architecturally unique building showcasing over 35,000 works from around the world. Explore hands-on exhibits on astronomy, animals, the ocean, science, sustainability, and much more at the innovative Sciencenter, analyze fossils at the Museum of Earth, savor more nature at the city's many parks and trails, or sample award-winning vino at one of its renowned wineries.

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09Horseback Riding at Painted Bar Stables

Gear up for a fulfilling adventure with these 5-star stables. A favorite among locals and tourists alike, rides are suitable for all ages and ability levels. Gear up with a riding lesson that teaches the basics, or head out on a trail ride that leads you through the region's signature rolling landscape. Trails range from picturesque journeys to trying terrain, and groups usually accommodate 3-4 riders for a more intimate experience. Endurance and distance coaching sessions are also available for more advanced riders looking to enhance their skills.

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10Harris Hill Soaring Corporation

Take to the skies with a glider plane, and explore the lakes from a bird's eye view. This once-in-a-lifetime experience is not for the faint of heart — your aircraft will ascend an impressive 4,000 feet before it's released into the open skies. Each glider seats just two people, so this is a journey where you'll be accompanied by an experienced pilot. Traveling with a group? No worries; each adventure lasts around 20 minutes, so you can easily switch off with loved ones. Next door, discover the world's largest collection of motorless planes at the National Soaring Museum.

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